- Shabaz Ali is a chemistry teacher who’s gained 1.5 million TikTok followers by mocking the rich.
- Ali has seen poverty in schools and wants influencers to be “more responsible” in the recession.
- He said influencer culture is “dying” because people don’t want to see wealth flaunted online.
Shabaz Ali is a TikToker who’s notched up 1.5 million followers by making fun of rich people.
Ali, who uses the handle “Shabaz Says” on social media, may have popped up on your TikTok feed, lying in bed, wearing colorful hoodies, and insulting viewers for being a “povvo” — British slang for someone who’s poor.
His audience knows him as “the CEO of ‘I’m rich, you’re poor,'” – a series of videos in which Ali satirizes the luxurious lifestyles some people share online. His aim is to show how detached they are from the millions of people suffering from surging prices.
Ali’s videos might show him reacting in horror to one influencer buying a $550 dog collar from Gucci, or another claiming to spend $2,000 a month on designer glass bottles of water from Norway.
@shabazsays #duet with @Ryan Dubs it’s not my fault I can’t drink povvo water 🤦🏽♂️ #povvogang #povvo #funny #comedy #react #reaction #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #commentary #trending #viral #rich #richlife #money #asmr #water ♬ original sound – Ryan Dubs
The self-described “Robin Hood” is actually a 30-year-old high-school chemistry teacher from Blackburn in northern England who talked to Insider during a break in the school day.
“Just before lockdown one of my pupils was like ‘Oh my god sir, you need to download this app TikTok, it’s really funny and you’ll love it,'” he said. “During the lockdown, we had nothing else to do, so it just became a thing where I recorded videos.”
After appearing on a reality TV show called “The Circle” in 2021, Ali decided to put more effort into his social media accounts, especially TikTok. His laidback style earned him almost 500,000 followers by 2022, but it was only when he started reacting to rich people that the tally soared above the 1 million mark.
“It started off with the idea that as a rich person, you have so much time on your hands that you can go out there and make 17 different flavors of ice because you don’t have to go to work, you don’t have to have a job,” he said.
“I think we should be more responsible, especially in the current climate. Don’t be so tone-deaf. In the cost of living crisis, there are people without any food and then there are people over-indulging.”
Ali saw students suffering from poverty in schools he taught in
Ali’s videos have partly been inspired by his experiences as a teacher and seeing the effects of government spending cuts on students.
“I’ve worked at a school in Bolton and it was absolute breadline. Some of the kids weren’t eating,” he said, adding that some wouldn’t get a hot meal on the weekend.
Ali disliked the influencer focus of apps such as Instagram and felt that TikTok was the right place to address such issues in a more comedic way.
In one video, he reacts to a woman who paid £70 ($82) for designer cookies from Dior.
@shabazsays #duet with @LoveLuxury.co.uk you eat your cheap cookies.. we got dior ones 😱 #diorcookies #puttaykam #funny #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #react #reaction #commentary #trending #viral #comedy #cookies #cook #bake #food #foodie #foodlover ♬ original sound – LoveLuxury.co.uk
Ali’s fans even include figures such as singer Lily Allen – and some have offered to pay him to promote their lifestyle on his page.
‘The age of the influencer is on its way out’
Ali’s videos reflect a feeling among some that influencers are losing their sway with audiences.
Some have taken up “de-influencing”, or interrogating the hype around cult products in a bid to seem more authentic and credible.
“The age of the influencer is on its way out,” Ali said. “We don’t want to sit there being bombarded with images of beautiful people doing beautiful things with their beautiful money.”
He has no plans to become an influencer himself and won’t be quitting his teaching job any time soon. Despite getting 177 million views on TikTok in December, he says he earned just £28 ($33.)
Ali’s now exploring more lucrative social media platforms, where he says he’s already earning more money.